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Black Diamond Traverse ski poles, $70

Hey, wise guy: No, I did not forget my skis. I just prefer using ski poles when exploring the alpine. Yes, even in summer. Laugh all you want, but now I have better balance and share the load with my upper body, preventing knee strain and sprained ankles, to boot.

Multiple manufacturers make poles with varying features—adjustment range, packed length, basket size, handgrip angle, newfangled materials and the like—but I prefer my Black Diamond Traverses. They're lightweight yet strong and simple, and employ BD's fail-proof FlickLock mechanism that tenaciously locks 'em to length. A rubber grip extension allows an immediate choke-up when traversing or climbing steeply. And when steep summer snow or ice impedes, swap out the pole's top half for a Whippet, BD's gadget that acts like an ice ax and converts your pole to a handy self-arrest tool.

Hesitant to add a half-pound to each hand? Not me. Instead I'm resting easy when they double as tent poles—the ones I didn't have to lug. Who's laughing now?

Chad Harder

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